Know your Oils | Guest Post from HealthLine

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

“Good” Fats, “Bad” Fats: A Dietary Oil Primer

By Leslie Vandever

Dietary fats add deliciousness, richness, and good, healthy nutrition to the foods we love. In the form of oils for cooking or eating, you can count on them to improve and enhance any cuisine.

But there’s far more to oils than meets the eye—and the tastebuds. They have a real drawback: they’re all high in calories (they’re fats, after all). But that means they’re high in energy, too. Used in moderation, with an eye on your waistline, they’re an essential part of a healthy diet.

Dietary oils come from many sources, including plants, nuts, and seeds. Some, like butter and lard, come from animals. Some have more nutritional and health value than others, so it’s important to understand how to best use them, from heating to eating.

Fats from animal sources are, in general, unhealthy. You’ll know them because they’re solid at room temperature. They’re high in saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol to dangerous levels and puts you at risk for heart disease. Avoid or limit animal fats in your diet.

Avoid trans-fats—or trans-fatty acids—too. These are made when hydrogen is added to plant oils, and they’re double trouble. Labeled as “partially hydrogenated,” they include shortening and some margarines. Not only will they raise your levels of “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) blood cholesterol, they lower the levels of “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol clogs arteries; HDL cholesterol helps to remove it from the body.

Plant-based oils on their own are rich in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. They are the “good,” healthy types of fat, rich in omega-3 fatty acids that neutralize cell-killing free radicals and, scientists believe, may preserve memory and aid thinking abilities later in life. “Good” fats don’t raise blood cholesterol levels. They help the body digest and absorb vitamins, too.

All dietary oils have a “smoke point:” the moment at which the oil gets hot enough to burn and produce smoke. The smoke point varies from oil to oil, but once it starts to burn, not only has the oil lost any nutritional value, it tastes downright awful. In addition, the fumes are toxic and release free radicals into the air.

Monounsaturated Oils

  • almond oil has a nutty flavor and high smoke point. It’s best for searing, browning, and deep frying.
  • canola (rapeseed) oil has no flavor, a medium high smoke point, and can be used for frying, browning, searing, in dressings, and in some baked goods.
  • peanut oil has a medium-high smoke point. Its mild, nutty flavor makes it great for stir-frying.
  • safflower oil has a high smoke point, no flavor, and it’s good for searing, browning, frying, and in dressings.
  • sesame oil has a medium smoke point and a rich, nutty flavor. It’s best for light sautéing.
  • sunflower oil has a high smoke point, making it good for frying, browning, and searing. (Look for the high-oleic acid type, which is higher in monounsaturated fat than the others.) Its flavor is neutral.
  • “light” olive/refined olive/extra-virgin olive oil has a high smoke point, so it’s good for frying, sautéing, browning, and searing. The distinctive flavor is excellent in Italian and other Mediterranean foods.

Polyunsaturated Oils

  • soybean oil has a medium smoke point. It’s high in omega-6 fatty acids and works well for frying, sautéing, and browning. It’s also great for salad dressings.
  • corn oil has a medium smoke point, little flavor, is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, and works well for frying, grilling, and baking.
  • grapeseed oil has a medium-high smoke point, a neutral flavor, and is also rich in omega-6s. Along with using it for frying and baking, it’s delicious drizzled on crusty bread and in dressings.

Finally, a word about ghee: a traditional staple in Indian cuisine, ghee is made from the fats in whole milk and is rich in saturated fat, which has been proven to increase the risk of heart disease. The research on ghee’s health benefits is limited, but some researchers assert that if eaten as less than 10 percent of a day’s total calories, ghee may actually lower cardiovascular risks. Use it in moderation.

LeslieVandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California where she writes for Healthline.

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Pasta Aglio e Olio | Healthy and quick recipe


Pasta Aglio e olio


The simplest pasta recipe ever. Pasta Aglio e olio – simply means pasta with garlic and olive oil. Mayuresh needed a quick fix lunch, and I had very little quick ingredients on hand – so this pasta is what he got in his lunch box today. Pasta aglio e olio is traditionally made with spaghetti. But I did not have any spaghetti in the pantry today, plus spaghetti does not keep too well in a lunch box. The fusilli came to my rescue and I quickly tossed it with some extra virgin olive oil, crushed and chopped garlic and chilli flakes. That was it! Lunch, ready! 

You will need -

1/2 cup pasta (ideally spaghetti)

6 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 table spoon and a bit more to drizzle on top extra virgin olive oil

a little parsley to garnish (I used the one from my pot of herbs, yay!)


- Boil a pot of water and add a couple of teaspoons salt to it. Once the water is boiling, add in the pasta and cook al dente. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water and drain off the rest.

- Warm the extra virgin olive oil in a pan, add the garlic and chilli flakes to it. Then add the pasta water and mix. Toss in the pasta, give a quick mix. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve. 





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My article in India today, simply pune | Months old, but forgot to share


All people living in Pune, please give these places a try. You will love them. Read the full article here!

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Are all soy products healthy?


Reposting a really old post from this blog as I think this information needs to reach more people. Grammar nazis to please ignore the typos and the errors (I was a blogging infant back then!). I will update/correct this post soon. Promise!

Originally posted on Healthy Feasts:

While soya bean was hailed as the wonder food in the 20th century, today we often see a lot of not so healthy foods which have been made using soy or its derivatives as one of their ingredients. A few days back, with the all the festive fever, I saw a lady on TV showing a black forest cake recipe. Everything was fine till the time she made the cake (although I did not quite agree with the amount of butter and full fat cream that she put in, but well..!). Trouble peeped in when she began icing the cake, the ingredients (obviously!) were whipping cream and icing sugar. To quote her ‘Don’t worry! This whipping cream is not fattening, its made of soy.‘ Thats when I started fuming!

Having heard that on regional TV, I did a small experiment. I asked some 15 people (of course…

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Mango Cream | Super quick dessert

Mango Cream - Inspired by the dish of the same name at Mapro Gardens, Mahabaleshwar

Mango Cream – Inspired by the dish of the same name at Mapro Gardens, Mahabaleshwar

Every summer I resolve to make at least one mango based dessert or dish but all the mangoes get gobbled up as soon as they are ripe. The same was about to happen this year- the mango season is almost over and all I had done was eat 3-4 mangoes every day. :) A few days back, I had made chicken stroganoff for dinner which was downed with a lot of flourish but I felt like something was missing. I asked M whether he wanted a simple quick mango dessert and the reply was obvious. So this mango cream is what I made and it was well worth the little effort as the glee on the faces of the boys (M and R) and the response on facebook was something worth seeing!

You will need:

2 ripe alphonso mangoes, diced small
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tsp sugar


- Chop the mangoes into small dice. Whip the cream with the sugar till soft peaks are formed.
– Put in a couple of spoonfuls of the mangoes into a serving bowl/glass. Next layer with a spoonful of cream. Top with another layer of mangoes, followed by cream. Make as many layers as you want and have the patience for.
– Garnish with a few pieces of mango and some sweet basil.

A delightfully easy and yummy summer dessert is ready!

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The Magic (Musk) Melon

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When you think of a fruit, what comes to your mind first? Apples, oranges, sweet limes and bananas? Or grapes, strawberries and mangoes. But ever thought of figs, watermelon, musk melon? The current trend of buying produce from the supermarket has led to us missing out on a whole host of seasonal, regional fruits which are not only very tasty but easy on the pocket too. One such wonder-fruit is a musk melon. Musk melon (also known as Cantaloupe, Kharbooja) belongs to the cucurbit family which also includes cucumbers, gourds, melons, pumpkins and squashes. A musk melon could be white or pale yellow on the outside and may or may not have longitudinal green ridges. It is characterized by a thick outer skin and a soft, fleshy, interior. Musk melon seeds are also edible and find vast use in Indian traditional cuisine. In India, a variety of musk melons are available in the local markets in the summer months of April to July. One also finds them in the supermarkets, but call it my skepticism, I have always found fruits bought from the local fruit vendor to be tastier than the ones from the mall. It could also be because of the facts that the malls store melons in air-conditioned rooms whereas a melon needs to be kept at room temperature to ripen. A good ripe musk melon will not have any bruises on the skin, will emanate a sweet smell and when softly tapped on the outside will have a hollow thud.

This fruit is perfect for an afternoon or even midnight snack as it is very low in calories plus full of vital nutrients and has plenty fibre and water- which implies lesser hunger pangs. Compared to an apple, a musk melon is a much superior source of vitamins C and A as well as the mineral potassium- all of which have antioxidant properties and boost immunity. Potassium in particular helps regulate blood pressure. This fruit is also loaded with the benefits of B complex vitamins which protect the body against illness and help keep all organs healthy. The fruit and its edible seeds are a great source of dietary fibre which implies no constipation and elimination of toxins in the body. Melon seeds are also a source of a type of omega-3 fatty acid which are very good for your heart.

As a kid I used to refuse to eat musk melons as I did not like that musky odor. My mum then used to sprinkle a little bit of powdered sugar and cardamom powder on it, which would prompt me to finish off an entire bowlful of it. These days we add it to a fruit salad or a summer salad along with pomegranates with a very light dressing. Musk melon and water melon scoops on skewers also make for an attractive amuse bouche. Kids may also like melon juice made into popsicles- a great summer treat. Melon seeds on the other hand are excellent in baking, for thickening gravies or as part of granola. In fact in India, dried toasted melon seeds have often been used in mukhwaas or mouth fresheners along with spices and other nuts.

And the most important benefit of melons (of all kinds including watermelons) is that their increased consumption gives you a glowing radiant skin even in the dry dull summers. The high water content and skin friendly vitamins in it ensure that your skin looks visibly fresh and radiant. This I can vouch for as the women in my family (including my mum and granny) used to always eat tons of this fruit and then rub the inside of the skin on their face and voila, an easy natural melon face pack done!

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Protein in your daily diet

Protein in your daily diet

Protein, Amino Acids, Whey protein, Protein shakes, and Protein-only diets–the “health and fitness” industry is buzzing with all of these and more words. But do you know why? Why is everyone suddenly downing “high protein smoothies” instead of other conventional breakfast? Why is a new protein powder/supplement brand being launched every other day? Why are protein shakes being touted as the miracle solution for weight loss and muscle gain?

To get to the basics–a protein is a building block of every tissue (which makes organs) in our body and is also integral in every single body process. A protein is further made of amino acids, the presence or absence of which determines whether a food protein is of a “high value” or not. So then, if the body can’t do without proteins, then surely it must be very efficient about storing proteins in large quantities? Incorrect. Here’s the crucial part–although protein is a building block of life and the body needs it to repair and maintain itself, there is no mechanism for storing protein in the body for future use. This makes it very important to consume adequate proteins in your diet on an everyday basis.

According to the WHO, a person needs about 10-35% of their daily calories from a protein source. The ICMR states that an average person with a sedentary lifestyle needs 40-60 grams of protein per day. It is not very difficult to get an average of 50 grams of protein per day if you consume a healthy, balanced diet. For vegetarians, a serving of upma with vegetables or idli with sambar and a glass of milk for breakfast; a serving of pulses or dal, two wholewheat rotis, one serving of subzi, one small bowl of yogurt and a salad for lunch; a misal for afternoon snack and kadhi khichadi and salad for dinner would approximately provide your daily protein requirement. For non-vegetarians, eggs, poultry and meat are rich sources of high value proteins.

If your first thought on reading that list of recommended foods was “OMG, all that food would so totally bust my diet,” you need to be very careful about what you are eating. A diet deficient in protein can lead to a false weight loss, wherein a person loses weight due to muscle break down, rather than by truly burning fat. Ever seen those people who shed 20 kilos in three months and are left with loose skin around the arms, waist and neck? Not eating enough protein can also put your organs and bones at risk–you may experience unexplained fatigue, slow wound healing and a compromised immune system.

So then, what if I have only protein rich foods morning, noon and night? That is the premise for a host of recent “magic” diets. However, one needs to be conscious about the fact that a lot of high protein foods from animal sources like red meats, cured meats, and loins are also high in saturated fat, which amounts to higher calories and a risk of higher cholesterol levels. Piling up on protein shakes, protein powders or protein supplements can also put a load on your kidneys in the long run. People with high protein intakes also experience ketosis where the amount of ketones in the body increases to toxic levels. The most important fact which mostly goes unnoticed is that higher proteins also amount to higher calories; plus, the body has a unique way of converting every macronutrient (including protein) to FAT! Excess proteins give higher calories and also high urea and ammonia levels in the body, which if not regulated can become harmful.

What do I eat, then? Opt for lean animal protein sources like eggs, chicken and fish or pulses, beans, dals and dairy products along with a healthy dose of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Stay away from processed foods including protein supplements and powders and eat fresh, local and healthy. Not to forget, that daily brisk walk never harmed anyone!

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